The Austin Chronicle


By Shawn Badgley, May 9, 2003, Books

In the realm of mad congratulations, we must begin with Michener alum Sabina Murray, whose novel The Caprices received the PEN Faulkner Award for fiction (the largest juried U.S. fiction prize, complete with a $15,000 check), and current UT assistant English professor Khaled Mattawa, whose translations of Saadi Youssef's poetry earned him the PEN International Prize for Poetry in Translation... Next: William J. Cobb (The Fire Eaters, The White Tattoo) and Dominic Smith, who are the 2003-04 Dobie-Paisano Fellows. I am an admirer of Cobb, who teaches at Penn State University, and look forward to native Australian and Michener alum Smith's debut novel, The Beautiful Miscellaneous. Smith will start his six-month writing residency at J. Frank Dobie's 250-odd-acre ranch west of Austin in September, Cobb in March of next year. The fellowships are awarded by UT and the Texas Institute of Letters... One more sweet story: almost folded financially (just a week after its first birthday, cruelly enough), but founder and bookish Austin bon vivant Jessa Crispin reports that her tears of rage soon turned to tears of joy after droves of loyal readers (including Neil Gaiman) responded in force, making donations and buying Bookslut paraphernalia to raise $600... The Utter reading series, formerly a Cactus Cafe affair, is moving to BookPeople beginning with its Monday, May 12, 7pm, performance. Scheduled onstage: poets Cyrus Cassells and Bruce Snider, as well as novelists Diana Lopez and Katherine Tanney... Other BookPeople news: The store's latest catalog is available at independent shops and restaurants across town. Titled "This Is My Favorite Book," it features 11 employees each letting you in on their 10 favorite titles. Go find it, because BookPeople is BookPeople because of things like this... BookPeople is also BookPeople because of great readings. This week: local Geoffrey Leavenworth, whose almost-autobiographical novel Isle of Misfortune (TCU Press, $26.50) is highly recommended (and nearly sold out of its first printing), on Wednesday, May 14, at 7pm; and UT grad Keith Kachtick (Hungry Ghost, HarperCollins, $24.95) the next night at the same time... Kachtick, though, will have to compete with the "mighty big rig" known as So New Media and its Book Punk No. 4. At Emo's. On Thursday. At 6pm (doors 5). Featuring (in order of importance) Matthew Derby (Super Flat Times, Back Bay Books, $13.95), Joel Turnipseed (Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir, Borealis Books, $22.95), Neal Pollack (Beneath the Axis of Evil, SNM, $10), and the music of Hobble and the Yuppie Pricks... Bill Minutaglio's City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle, or, as our Roger Gathman called it, the "satisfyingly gruesome" story of the 1947 Texas City, Texas, freighter explosion (see his review here), has been offered option by Tom Cruise's production company, Cruise/Wagner... Finally: For the full Texas Writers Month calendar, visit Hopefully, the calendar will actually be up by the time you read this.

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